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Andrea Paine Headshot

Life as I Know it, After Cancer

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I have been a cancer survivor for a little over five years. Throughout my journey, I have remained positive, sometimes scared, and at times frustrated. The base of it all, though, is my belief that I will thrive and live a healthy, full life.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I went in for my first surgery, where doctors performed a lumpectomy. The goal was to remove all cancer cells, and ensure that the margins of this tissue they removed were clear. At the time, I thought that was going to be it. I would recover, and continue life as I know it.

With the pathology results came the news that the margins were not clear. I would have to go back for another operation to remove more tissue, and make sure all the cancer cells were removed. It was then, along with the consideration of my family history, that I decided to go in for a double mastectomy and reconstruction. The recovery was longer after this operation, however I was confident that the end was near, and I would be able to continue living my life "normally."

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Then came the news that I needed to have chemotherapy. This is quite the curve in the road, and something I had to rationalize and sort out in my mind. After eight rounds of chemotherapy, I had to book my third operation to construct the nipples on my newly reconstructed breasts. That surgery went well, and I was on the road to recovery again.

By now I had realized that life as I knew it was no longer a reality for me. I was well aware that pitfalls occur, that may require surgery, or other procedures that breast cancer survivours need to consider. I was also more aware of life. With everything that had already happened, I became more appreciative of the small things in life, and grateful for what I had. Friends and family members tried to encourage me, and probably themselves, with words like "hopefully this will be the last time you need to have surgery."

This was not to be, though, as I have just undergone operation number six. And, although not easy, I am grateful that I am still healthy, and I am taking the time of recovery to give thanks, and appreciate the family, friends and work colleagues who have been my pillars of support over the past five years, as well for the future.

So as I sit on the couch with my two dogs; appreciating the beauty of my backyard, and sharing many laughs with my girls when they get back from school and tell me about their day, I realize how lucky I am. Yes, as a cancer survivour, I would't be entirely truthful if I didn't admit that I'd love to rewind and remove the cancer part from my history. I would have a much different life right now.

But I wouldn't have had the opportunity to be a role model to my daughters. They wouldn't have had first hand knowledge of how to pick yourself up and succeed in the face of adversity. I wouldn't have taken the opportunity to do the inner work I have done in order to make me a better person. I would have been too busy to appreciate the small things that life presents, and that most people take for granted.

So I am re-writing my most beautiful life into something more peaceful, heartfelt and meaningful. It includes the people who have accepted the new me; pitfalls and all. They are there to encourage me and will drive me to doctor appointments, or send positive thoughts when I'm going into surgery.

So take heart all you cancer survivors out there. No matter how many rounds of chemo or radiation you have to endure, or follow-up surgeries you have to undergo, take heart. The end result is improvement, and it usually happens for a reason. Embrace it.